The Blues mantra may have to be altered. 'Better Never Stops' is plastered throughout the team headquarters but few in the squad have taken note during their recess.

They've had plenty of time to get their game sorted but it looks like they had just had a couple of runs together. There can be no excuse about the late return of their All Blacks as Ben and Aaron Smith showed stacks of spark in the concentrated Highlanders' efforts.

By contrast the Blues were fragmented on defence and too individual on attack, making you wonder what they had been doing since they got together last year.

Possession was not a problem, however concentration and accuracy were issues. They were burned last year in Dunedin and no doubt had a multitude of messages rammed into their melons all week about this task.


The Highlanders would be spirited and even more willing after the grief of their last campaign but they were a team to be taken with strong basic rugby topped off by some of the Blues flair.

Who listened? Very few it seemed. The credentials of their respected coaches have taken just as big a hit. They watched the Blues crumble at the fag end of 2013 and understood the required remedial work.

Understanding and working on solutions is obviously no easy task for those coaches or the players. They did not give in but it was a disturbing start especially when they look at what will be a disgruntled and reinforced Crusaders group next round.